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Bittersweet ending for city Catholic school

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The final graduating class from St. Patrick’s on East Street pose for a photo on the school’s familiar foyer stairs. Glenn Ogilvie

Daniel Cicchelli started to feel it at Homecoming.

“That was the first day people were wearing the green and the blue. It was the first time you could see we were coming together as one school,” he recalls.

Last fall, students from St. Christopher’s Catholic Secondary left their building while it was renovated and moved in with students at St. Patrick’s, Sarnia’s only other Catholic high school.

There could have been a terrible clash between the Cyclones and Fighting Irish, but instead there was a sense of unity, according to Cicchelli, who will be part of the last graduating class from the St. Pat’s East Street building.

When school resumes next fall all Catholic students in Sarnia will relocate to the renovated St. Christopher’s, which will be renamed St. Patrick’s and continue the Fighting Irish’s 79-year history, albeit with blue and green colours.

The building at 281 East St. will shut down. It belonged to the public school board when it was Sarnia Central Collegiate, then the separate board when it became St. Pat’s in 1985.

It’s the start of something new and the end of something dear. Being part of the final graduating class has special significance, said Ciccelli, who attended St. Chris until the amalgamation.

“We are celebrating the fourth year but respecting the past three too,” he said.

Cicchelli was chosen by his classmates to be valedictorian at graduation this spring, along with Charlotte Stoesser, who spent all four years at St. Pat’s.

“We appreciate we come from two different schools, but the most rewarding thing this year is that we’ve become unified,” she said.

Stoesser has four siblings who attended St. Pat’s on East Street.

“It’s sad to see the school go,” she said. “But at the end of the day it is just a building. The school spirit comes from what people do in the school.

“That’s what’s important.”

And school spirit improved immeasurably this year, say the two valedictorians.

“We’ve got bigger numbers, bigger teams and that definitely elevated the level of sports,” said Stoesser.

“We’ve all come together through sports teams and school activities,” agreed Cicchelli.

“It doesn’t matter whether you’re St. Chris or St. Pat’s, we’re all loud and proud,” added Stoesser.

Her best memory of this year to date was a St. Pat’s tradition called Palooza. The outdoors fun day held May 16 showcased student talents in music, drama and performing.

Palooza and other events like it won’t die with the closing of the building. They’ll move over to the new school, said Stoesser.

The final graduating class from 281 East St. is 265 students strong. About two-thirds of them are students who moved from St. Chris.

– Cathy Dobson

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